Farewell to Park Day
It has been a Daniel Island fall tradition for the last 16 years, generating loads of fun for community members of all ages, while bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars for local charities. But beginning this year, Park Day is no more.
The Daniel Island Property Owners Association announced last week that it would no longer be able to host the popular event, which grew each year to become one of the community’s largest and most complex annual offerings.
“The festival requires tremendous staff time year-round and increased funding each year,” stated the POA in an e-blast message to the community. “After much contemplation and discussion, the Daniel Island POA has decided that it is no longer feasible to manage this event.”
The decision to discontinue Park Day was based on several factors, continued the POA’s message, including the association’s desire to continue to provide smaller, more cost-effective events for community members that “enhance the quality of life.” The POA will continue to host several of the organization’s larger events, such as the Concert in the Park, the Independence Day celebrations, and the Holiday Festival.
For Barbara McLaughlin, manager of community services for the POA, the decision to end the event was a touching one.
“As they say, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ and as I look through the pictures of Park Days past, and reminisce, it fills my heart with joy that we were able to provide such a fun, communal event that appealed to so many people,” said McLaughlin. “Park Day wouldn’t have existed as long as it did without the support of so many. We are so grateful to all of the patrons and sponsors who sustained the event both financially and by their attendance for many years which benefited scores of charitable organizations.”
McLaughlin also noted that it has been “an honor and a pleasure” to serve as a manager for the event for the past six years.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to know that Park Day’s goal of ‘giving back to the community’ will remain possible via the Daniel Island Community Foundation,” said McLaughlin. “The Daniel Island Community Foundation will continue to generate funds and awareness for some of Charleston’s most important charitable organizations.”
“I can remember going to Park Day with Mayor Riley before I worked on Daniel Island, when we had about a third the number residents that we do now,” shared Jane Baker, vice president of community services for the POA. “It was always a well-managed and fun event. The philanthropic spirit of Daniel Island was one of the reasons I accepted my position at the POA seven years ago. While this great event will be missed and ending it is bittersweet, the spirit of giving will continue through our DICF grants program and our ever expanding DI Community Foundation initiatives.”
A LOOK BACK
The very first Park Day was held on Daniel Island in 2001. In that inaugural year, some 2,000 people turned out to experience a bit of good old fashioned, hometown fun. At the time, the idea behind it was to offer activities in each of the island’s main parks to give residents and guests a chance to explore the different venues.
“When we first introduced the event, there were a lot of people who had come here for events in town (like soccer and tennis), but who had no idea there was so much more to this community,” stated Julie Dombrowski, spokesperson for the Daniel Island Company, in a 2005 article about the event in The Daniel Island News. “Park Day presented an opportunity to introduce people to the heart of the community – the neighborhoods and people that make the place what it is.”
But ultimately, organizers found that traversing between parks became a bit time consuming for attendees, so activities were later centralized in one location. For a number of years it took place at Children’s Park along the Wando River, and later at Governors Park.
Another major change in Park Day’s evolution was its shift in its early years to a charitable focus, a direction that quickly paid off. In 2005 alone, shortly after the concept was introduced, the event brought in more than $40,000 for organizations such as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, the United Methodist Relief Fund and various animal rescue groups. All in all, more than 64 non-profits, including East Cooper Community Outreach, benefitted from proceeds from the event since its inception, bringing the collective total generated over the years to close to $400,000.
PARK DAY REFLECTIONS
“On behalf of ECCO, we are grateful to have been the beneficiary of proceeds generated from Daniel Island Park Day,” said Alana Morrall, ECCO’s director of development and marketing. “The staff and volunteers who attended or helped out at past events always enjoyed participating in the activities. We all have fond memories of being together at Daniel Island Park Day.”
Morrall recalled one memory in particular that touched her heart.
“I remember one year when we were assisting Park Day operations, ECCO was assigned to take tickets at a climbing wall,” she said. “There was a little girl who wasn’t allowed to do the climbing wall because she was wearing flip flops. She looked so sad. With her mother’s permission, I let her borrow my sneakers....she climbed up that wall with such a huge smile on her face, I’ll never forget that.”
“I am really sad to see this go,” added Jo Cooper, who serves as ECCO’s community relations coordinator. “As a Daniel Island resident who attended the very first Park Day, I’ve always greatly enjoyed this event.”
Through the years, Park Day continued to blossom with new offerings. There were entertainers galore that kept the music pumping, including live bands, dancers, DJs, and school orchestra and band performances. Also on the list of activities – bubble soccer, face painting, treasure hunts, jump castles, bake sales and pie contests, tailgating games, pet zones, pony rides, dog acrobatics, bike shows, and more. Even camels made an appearance in 2015. For Daniel Island resident Angel Roberts, founder of Peace Love Hip Hop, a dance academy that performed regularly at Park Day over the last eight years, the demise of the event was disappointing news.
“I’m so sad,” commented Roberts, who said she got the idea for PLHH after going to a Park Day event with her family more than 10 years ago. “I love the location, the time of year it takes place…it just sort of signifies fall is here. It’s so amazing in so many ways. Thousands of my kids have performed at Park Day and have memories of putting on their Peace Love Hip Hop t-shirts and dancing on the grass for their friends and neighbors.”
Roberts wishes there was a way to continue the event.
“That and the Holiday Festival are my two favorite events – because they’re about the kids,” she said. “That’s why I moved from L.A. to Daniel Island – for community, fun events like that and to make memories for my kids.”
Daniel Island Rotarians were also frequently spotted at Park Day, raising awareness about their organization, promoting the charities they serve, or volunteering.
“The Rotary Club of Daniel Island was a proud participant in Park Day,” stated Scott Varn, current club president. “For many years, members of the Rotary Club volunteered to manage the numerous kids’ activities, as countless children enjoyed everything Park Day had to offer. It was yet again another opportunity for our members to serve our community. The POA should be commended for their efforts over the last 16 years in planning and executing such a wonderful event on Daniel Island.”
Island resident Jacqueline Gowe fondly remembers taking part in Park Day on behalf of the Daniel Island School and Community Garden.
“It was always a great venue for us to meet Daniel Islanders and spread the word about the community garden,” said Gowe. “Each year at Park Day we found new members and more support for the garden. It seems that with the island growing by leaps and bounds, we need Park Day more than ever. It was a fun and important event for Daniel Islanders - bringing us all together on a beautiful fall day to share information and simple homegrown activities.”
Despite the loss of Park Day, the POA is hopeful that the community will continue to find new ways to come together and celebrate life on Daniel Island.
“Instead of focusing on the ‘goodbye’ I consider this an opportunity to imagine new events that continue to build community,” added McLaughlin. “Park Day provided a unique experience for our Daniel Island residents and off island guests. All of those who were involved over the years with the event will forever remember that we came together for a common cause, on a beautiful fall day, to recreate and play, socialize, drink some cold beverages, enjoy good music and most importantly give back to the community. We thank everyone for the many years of good times and great memories that were created.”